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The Power and the Glory by Graham Greene

In a poor, remote section of Southern Mexico, the paramilitary group, the Red Shirts have taken control. God has been outlawed, and the priests have been systematically hunted down and killed. Now, the last priest is on the run. Too human for heroism, too humble for martyrdom, the nameless little worldly “whiskey priest” is nevertheless impelled toward his squalid Calvary as much by his own compassion for humanity as by the efforts of his pursuers.
In his introduction, John Updike calls The Power and the Glory, “Graham Greene’s masterpiece…. The energy and grandeur of his finest novel derive from the will toward compassion, an ideal communism even more Christian than Communist.”
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Churches are burned. Relics, medals, and crosses are banned. The price for disobedience is death. While many clerics give up their beliefs and accept their government pensions, the unnamed priest travels in secret, celebrating Mass and hearing confessions under the cover of night. In life and in fiction, Greene was more interested in sinners than saints, and the whiskey priest is no saint—at least not for most of the story. His pride swells his sense of importance.

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Book: The Power and the Glory. Topics: Essay. The story takes place in post-revolution Mexico of the nineteen-thirties, where Catholicism has been banned. The government has shut down all of the churches and established anti-Catholic laws, jealous of the rising power of the church, and nervous of the corrupt ways in which the church has been dealing with sin. The surrounding communities in southern Mexico refuse to harbor the priest because of the drastic repercussions from the police. The priest feels guilty about his pride in being an inadequate priest and a sinner, but has come to terms with the eternal damnation he will face in the afterlife. Ater the Mexican Revolution, the Mexican government established anti-Catholic laws against the churches.

The title is an allusion to the doxology often recited at the end of the Lord's Prayer : "For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, forever and ever, amen. Greene's novel tells the story of a renegade Roman Catholic ' whisky priest ' a term coined by Greene living in the Mexican state of Tabasco in the s, a time when the Mexican government was attempting to suppress the Catholic Church. In , the novel received the Hawthornden Prize British literary award. In , it was chosen by TIME magazine as one of the hundred best English-language novels since The main character is an unnamed 'whisky priest', who combines a great power for self-destruction with pitiful cravenness, an almost painful penitence, and a desperate quest for dignity. The overall situation is this: Catholicism is outlawed in Mexico. However, while the other states of Mexico seem to follow a Don't-ask-don't-tell policy, the state of Tabasco enforces the ban rigorously.

These notes were contributed by members of the GradeSaver community. The Power and the Glory is considered by some to be the finest novel written by Graham Greene , author of Brighton Rock, The End of the Affair and both the novella and subsequent acclaimed screenplay for The Third Man. Somewhat in the vein of many iconic Hitchcockian thrillers, The Power and the Glory is the tale of a fugitive on the run who is trying not only to evade police, but to elude his own dark conscience catching up with him. What makes this fugitive singularly different is that he is an alcoholic priest. The ritual sacraments of Catholicism play a vital role in shaping the thriller aspects of the narrative as the disgraced priest attempting merely to work his way safely through the jungles of Mexico is the desperate desire for any priest in these desolate areas cut off from the main diocese to perform his duties and these duties often necessitate strict adherence to doctrine than is easier written down than actually carried out. The collision of a deeply flawed priest, a policeman committed to his own duty of bringing fugitive to justice and the dispossessed villagers who become a makeshift congregation allow Greene to explore complex issues related to the concept of sin and redemption set against a patina of starkly drawn class division and conflicts over the nature of justice.

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